There are serious concerns in some quarters that the 2030 development agenda is mainly a priority for global seed companies.
But, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to strengthen global partnerships to support and achieve the ambitious targets of the 2030 development agenda, with the private sector playing an essential role in this.
For those who know better, regional companies generally do not align their business activities with the SDGs. An exception, however, is South and Southeast Asia, where two-thirds of the regional companies report SDG commitments, but only two companies make these publicly available.
One of them is Charoen Pokphand, a Thai conglomerate with a worldwide presence in multiple sectors. In Eastern and Southern Africa, only Seed Co and Victoria Seeds report aligning their activities with the SDGs, but neither publicly discloses the details.
In Western and Central Africa, except for Seed Co, all companies lack relevant commitments.
Amazingly, eight of the 13 global seed companies have public commitments to contribute to the SDGs. These commitments differ significantly in scope and depth.
Corteva Agriscience, Monsanto and Syngenta lead the way by aligning specific SDG targets with business activities and monitoring progress toward them.
Other companies, such as East-West Seed and Bayer, have commitments to the SDGs but do not specify how they are contributing.
The industry addresses multiple SDGs, including SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 2 (Zero hunger), SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDG 12 (Responsible production and consumption) and SDG 13 (Climate Action). SDG 2 is most often cited by global companies.
Interestingly, SDG 2 is one of the least prioritised by the private sector*.
At the same time, the activities of global and regional companies are synergetic and both essential for improving access to seeds for smallholder farmers, and in particular for achieving SDG 2.
Therefore, the main challenge ahead lies in connecting and aligning all companies, big and small, with sustainable development and the targets set out in the SDGs.
*PriceWaterhouseCoopers, From promise to reality: Does business care about the SDGs?, 2018 (https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/sustainability/SDG/sdg-reporting-2018.pdf).
WBSCD, Business and the SDGs: A survey of WBCSD members and Global Network partners (https://docs.wbcsd.org/2018/07/WBCSD_Business_and_the_SDGs.pdf), July 2018.